This biography is almost as wild, compelling, dark and surprising as one of Dan J. Marlowe's books, which includes the classic [[ASIN:B0066P4ZFO The N...moreThis biography is almost as wild, compelling, dark and surprising as one of Dan J. Marlowe's books, which includes the classic [[ASIN:B0066P4ZFO The Name of the Game is Death]]. Charles Kelly has done an enormous amount of research and thoroughly knows his subject. What really sets this book apart from most literary biographies is the tight, novelistic approach he's taken to telling not only Marlowe's strange story, but also the tale of bank robber Al Nussbaum, who became Marlowe's collaborator. Marlowe fans will appreciate the fascinating, detailed look at the author as a person, as well as his complex relationships with his literary agent and two collaborators (William C. O'Dell and Nussbaum), but also the telling details behind the plotting and writing of his books, even those that never saw print. Highly recommended! (less)
The publishers of Ian Hamilton's The Disciple of Las Vegas: An Ava Lee Novel are attempting to position the book as Canada's answer to Steig Larssen a...moreThe publishers of Ian Hamilton's The Disciple of Las Vegas: An Ava Lee Novel are attempting to position the book as Canada's answer to Steig Larssen and, get this, Ian Fleming, which says a lot about Canadian thrillers...and none of it good. Imagine Jack Webb adapting The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and that will give you a sense of how "thrilling" this book is.
Ava Lee is a Toronto forensic accountant hired to recoup $65 million pilfered by a Vancouver executive working for a beer company in Manila. Oh, and she's a lesbian and a martial arts expert, not that either one of those aspects of her personality come into play at all...unless you count a brief fight and a couple of dull email exchanages with a stranger to arrange a blind date.
It's clear that Hamilton has no idea how to construct a thriller, much less a compelling story. The first hundred pages of this book are nothing but plodding, heavy-handed exposition without a shred of actual drama or conflict, all told without the slightest bit of style, wit, or fun.
Once the exposition finally lets up, the heroine spends her time flying from place to place, interviewing people, checking her email and making phone calls to tell other characters the boring things we already know. It's all about as action-packed and fun to read as a spreadsheet.
But the crippling problem with this listless story, beyond the exposition and repetition, is that there's no real conflict for Ava to confront or dramatic obstacles for her to overcome. The emotional and physical stakes aren't just low, they are non-existent for Ava and her clients who, to make matters worse, are depicted as thoroughly unlikeable and unworthy of her efforts.
So there is zero reason for the reader to care about what happens, and no rooting interest beyond, perhaps, wanting one-dimensional Ava to get her commission on the recovered money. That's not enough to motivate readers to slog their way through this book.
And they really shouldn't bother.
Nothing remotely interesting happens until page 218, but after ten surprisingly violent pages that offer some hope that things might finally start moving, the book falls right back into its deep, narrative slumber until the very end, a long and tiresome 130 pages later.
Ava may be a martial artist but she vanquishes her adversaries and overcomes her obstacles, what few insignificant ones there are, with phone calls rather than action. The climax of the book (and I'm being very generous calling it that) comes down to her making some phone calls to ask other people to make some phone calls, and then us hearing about those phone calls in some more phone calls. As if that wasn't enough fever-pitch phone call excitement, in the final confrontation with the bad guys, Ava offers to make one more phone call.
I suppose it's only fitting then that the epilog is Ava making some more phone calls and answering her emails.
Lisbeth Salander and James Bond, eat your hearts out.(less)
Robert Knott's IRONHORSE is not as good as Robert B. Parker's first two Virgil Cole novels, but it's better than his last one, which was truly awful o...moreRobert Knott's IRONHORSE is not as good as Robert B. Parker's first two Virgil Cole novels, but it's better than his last one, which was truly awful on just about every level. Knott doesn't have Parker's characters down at all (Cole makes many uncharacteristic, dull expository speeches in this book), and there's quite a bit of repetition, with the characters telling one another what we already know (a rookie mistake for newbie authors), and he doesn't capture Parker's lean style. But taken on its own merits, IRONHORSE is an enjoyable western none-the-less, with a fast-moving, twisty plot and some strong action. Bottom line: it doesn't come close to Ace Atkins' brilliant Spenser novel, which perfectly captured Parker's voice, nor was it as bad as Michael Brandman's execrable Jesse Stone books.(less)
Spent hours today absorbed in this remarkable, abundantly detailed and utterly compelling reference book that I highly recommend to any fan or admirer...moreSpent hours today absorbed in this remarkable, abundantly detailed and utterly compelling reference book that I highly recommend to any fan or admirer of McBain/Hunter and his voluminous work. The only downside for any writer reading this book is that afterwards you'll feel like a lazy-ass who hasn't produced nearly enough books and screenplays. (less)
It's a tragedy this book was marketed/packaged as a men's action adventure novel. Dennis was the real deal...these deserved to be recognized as straig...moreIt's a tragedy this book was marketed/packaged as a men's action adventure novel. Dennis was the real deal...these deserved to be recognized as straight-up noir. These novels pre-date Robert B. Parker's SPENSER series and yet are strikingly similar... Makes me wonder if Parker might have read one of the Hardmans at some point and it was percolating in his subconscious when he created his own series. Like Spenser, Hardman is an ex-cop turned investigator/bodyguard who lives by his own moral code and teams up often with a rough, violent African-American enforcer. He's also got a steady, loving girlfriend who understands, if not totally accepts, who he is and what he does (and isn't nearly as irritating as Susan Silverman), and a friend on the force (ala Belson and Quirk) who helps him out. He's also deeply tied in with the local mob bosses who have an understanding with him (again, like Spenser). And Atlanta, the city where Hardman lives, is a vivid character in the books (like Boston in the Spensers). The tone of the Hardmans is very different than the Spensers, and Spenser is far more moralistic, physically capable, smart-assy, and sure of himself than Hardman, but otherwise the franchise elements are almost identical. Ralph Dennis has a great voice, a wicked sense of humor, and a very sharp eye for detail. It's a damn shame this man never broke out into the big leagues. I loved this book and I am eager to devour the rest of this series.(less)
This is a complete, detailed history of the company and all of its animated and live action shows and feature films that reads like the transcripts of...moreThis is a complete, detailed history of the company and all of its animated and live action shows and feature films that reads like the transcripts of a series of unedited inteviews with Scheimer.
The plus side of that is that his character really comes through...you feel if you're having coffee with the guy over the course of several days. He's got lots of great stories to tell, and fascinating information to share, and he makes for lively company.
The downside of that is that he has a tendency to ramble, digress and get easily distracted. He takes some dead-end tangents and often starts some stories that he doesn't quite finish. For instance, he goes into great detail about the making of the Ghostbusters live-action show, and shares some wonderful anecdotes. He also says it was a big hit...but then doesn't explain why, if that was the case, it only lasted one season or what led to its cancellation.
The "it reads like a transcript," first-person construction makes the book unwieldy and frustrating at times...but that's more than made up for by the sheer wealth of information, memorable anecdotes, and tantalizing tidbits that you get. Like this one: they made a pilot for an animated, Saturday morning version of Quinn Martin's series Cannon, which starred William Conrad as a tough private eye. The animated pilot was called Young Cannon and would have been all about this fat kid solving crimes. I'd love to see that!
One of my favorite stories Scheimer tells is about a writer that the network didn't like -- so Scheimer fired the guy and hired a new writer that the network loved. In reality, Scheimer kept he same writer on and just had the guy put a pseudonym on the scripts. Scheimer also has some funny memories to share about Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch, who were big drinkers and started each shooting day of Ghostbusters drunk.
All in all, this is a highly enjoyable book that you don't have to be a Filmmation fan, or very familiar with all of the studio's shows, to appreciate.(less)
Jonathan Evison's WEST OF HERE is two books in one: a period western and a contemporary novel that evokes both Larry McMurtry and John Irving with col...moreJonathan Evison's WEST OF HERE is two books in one: a period western and a contemporary novel that evokes both Larry McMurtry and John Irving with colorful characters, amiable losers, dark-comic undertones and strong women. The story is set in the fictional, Washington town of Port Bonita, intercutting between its pioneering, hard-scrabble inhabitants in the late 1800s and their descendants (and other assorted characters) in 2006. It's a gimmick that could be just that but both halves work surprisingly well, and could stand on their own as individual novels. Evison also manages to balance drama and comedy, social commentary and social satire, without a stumble, while also juggling a touch of magical realism at the same time. It's a remarkable, highly entertaining, and invigoratingly original work.(less)
I was eagerly awaiting Roger Moore's Bond on Bond, figuring that he'd give us a unique, insider's perspective on the series. I was very wrong. This bo...moreI was eagerly awaiting Roger Moore's Bond on Bond, figuring that he'd give us a unique, insider's perspective on the series. I was very wrong. This book is a huge disappointment that offers nothing new...its simply a fluffy rehash of previously reported information, seemingly ghostwritten by someone else and interrupted with occasional, dull ancedotes from Moore that aren't nearly as interesting, or informative, as the Bond reflections he shared in his earlier, and far superior, autobiography My Word Is My Bond: A Memoir. There's no substance, no revelations, no telling details. It's reheated left-overs from earlier, tastier meals. Save your money and buy Moore's memoir instead.(less)
With the new Bond movie Skyfall coming out, there's a tsunami of 007-related books headed our way and I've been buying a bunch of them. The best so fa...moreWith the new Bond movie Skyfall coming out, there's a tsunami of 007-related books headed our way and I've been buying a bunch of them. The best so far is Jon Burlingame's The Music of James Bond. It's terrific, but I wouldn't expect anything less from the author of TV's Biggest Hits and an acknowledged expert in soundtrack music.
This book charts the evolution of every Bond score in a lively, breezily-written narrative that is as entertaining as it is informative. Everything you ever wanted to know about the scores, themes, and business behind the Bond music is here. Even if you aren't a Bond fan, this book is a revealing look at the business, marketing, and creative influences on how movie scores assigned and produced. It's a must-have reference and historical book for all Bond fans and soundtrack collectors that will have you listening to all the Bond albums again and searching YouTube and iTunes to listen to the many rejected theme songs. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, learned a lot, and hope that Jon will be updating it every few years...though I am still waiting for the sequel/update to TV's Biggest Hits!(less)
I won't rehash the plot, others have done a fine job of that. My problem with the book is that Henning Mankell was astonishingly lazy with his plottin...moreI won't rehash the plot, others have done a fine job of that. My problem with the book is that Henning Mankell was astonishingly lazy with his plotting. He seems to have made up the plot as he went along, with no clear idea of where he was going or what the solution would be. There's a stunningly inane, unbelievable, and contrived coincidence a third of the way through the book that ultimately ends up being totally unnecessary. I can't understand why Mankell didn't cut it, because it asks for such a massive suspension of disbelief that it ruins the novel. There are other plotting problems, ones you'd expect from a novice rather than an accomplished pro like Mankell. Whenever Wallander has a gap in his knowledge, rather than come up with a clever and interesting way for the detective to find out what he needs to know, Mankell creates instant expository characters to conveniently give Wallander answers and then leave the stage, never to be seen again in the novel (ie, Wallander knows nothing about East Germany, so he creates an East German defector Wallander once knew that can give him a detailed lecture on the specific area of Wallanders interest. Or, in another example, Wallander knows nothing about Swedish naval history, so Mankell creates a childhood friend Wallander has lot touch with who just happens to be an expert on everything that has ever happened to any naval officer or their family members in the history of Sweden, including the details of their day-to-day calendars). As a mystery, this book is a big, and often frustrating, disappointment that comes to a very unsatisfying, clumsy conclusion. But the novel does work as a melancholy look into the life of Kurt Wallander, a lonely and sad policeman who feels his age and is losing his grasp on his memory. (less)
I read Elmore Leonard's Raylan in one sitting and it was a pure pleasure, his best book in years. The book is very episodic, basically a series of thi...moreI read Elmore Leonard's Raylan in one sitting and it was a pure pleasure, his best book in years. The book is very episodic, basically a series of thinly connected vignettes that the writers of Justified, the kick-ass TV show based on an earlier Raylan Givens short story, have stripped for parts over the last two seasons, using just about every character, scene, action beat, and line dialogue. Even so, that familiarity didn't detract from my enjoyment, certainly no more so than reading any novel after you've seen the movie version. The prose is lean and fast-moving, the plotting relaxed and loose, and the dialogue sharp and witty. All in all, the perfect way to spend a Saturday in the sun. I hope Leonard writes another Raylan Givens book real soon. (less)
Although I've spent a lot of years as TV writer/producer, I'm still a TV nut who buys just about any behind-the-scenes book written about an individua...moreAlthough I've spent a lot of years as TV writer/producer, I'm still a TV nut who buys just about any behind-the-scenes book written about an individual series or about a network or studio. So I was eager to read Top of The Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV, NBC entertainment president Warren Littlefield's memoir of his days building the network's iconic 1990s Thursday night schedule, which included hits like Seinfeld, Frasier, and ER. Unfortunately, the book was a disappointment.
The book isn't so much written as it is transcribed... a collection of raw excerpts, snippets really, from interviews conducted with the key actors, writers, producers, agents, schedulers, lawyers, of NBC's 1990s hits... and, of course, quotes from Littlefield himself. He and co-author T.R. Pearson are going for the feel of an oral history, but it comes off as disjointed and scattershot.
There are some interesting facts and anecdotes revealed along the way, but much of the book felt like an excuse for Littlefield to settle a couple of old scores. Way too much of the book involves Littlefield and his former subordinates trashing Kelsey Grammer (described as a difficult actor with bad judgment and a substance abuse problem) and NBC president Don Ohlmeyer (depicting him as a boorish drunk with no creative instincts who contributed nothing to the success of the network's schedule) and touting his creative brilliance. It may all be true, but it still felt like sour grapes and became very tiresome.
All in all, it's worth reading if you're student of TV history, but it's not a very good book... not nearly as fascinating, revealing or well written as Season Finale: The Unexpected Rise and Fall of the WB and UPN, Susanne Daniels' recent memoir of programming the WB, which later merged with its rival UPN to create the CW, a book I highly recommend.(less)
Ace Atkin has pulled off a miracle. With LULLABY, he has managed not only to pitch-perfectly capture Robert B. Parker's voice and narrative pace, but...moreAce Atkin has pulled off a miracle. With LULLABY, he has managed not only to pitch-perfectly capture Robert B. Parker's voice and narrative pace, but also his story-telling structure, without once slipping into pastiche or parody. LULLABY rings absolutely true to Parker, and you only have to look at the first few pages of Michael Brandman's excreble Jesse Stone novel to see just how hard that is to pull off.
Moreover, LULLABY is even better than the last few of Parker's own Spenser novels. While LULLABY isn't as good as the early Spensers, it certainly fits right in with the mid-stream stuff, the period roughly between STARDUST and POTSHOT, which still makes it a wonderfully entertaining and satisfying read. It's as if Parker, not far from the top of his game, is still with us. It makes me wish Atkins would take on Jesse Stone, too.(less)
I bought TV NOIR: THE TWENTIETH CENTURY by Ray Starman based on a rave review by my friends over at Bookgasm... and because I'm a sucker for TV books....moreI bought TV NOIR: THE TWENTIETH CENTURY by Ray Starman based on a rave review by my friends over at Bookgasm... and because I'm a sucker for TV books. But TV NOIR was a huge disappointment on just about every level, from the actual printing itself to the thin, badly edited, content.
Even by self-published/print-on-demand standards, the print quality is awful. The photographs look like reproductions of xeroxes. The copyediting and proofreading are atrocious (missing and inconsistent punctuation, show titles with and without quotation marks, etc). It does not look or read like a professionally published work.
But all of that would be tolerable if the content was worthwhile. Sadly, it's not. There are some compelling ideas here, but you have to slog through some truly awkward, rambling sentences to get to them. Sentences like these:
Stack was able to overcome his 'tennis anyone' roles and an academy award nomination for the melodramatic "Written on the Wind" ('57) to perfect his underplayed and superior to the later Clint Eastwood's monotone style to gain status as a subtle and ironic characterization that was unique.' Huh? That's crisp, lean, clear prose compared to this sentence:
"Add to the list the controversial but I think brilliant 'Blade Runner' ('82) complete with Harrison Ford's tough guy voice-over reminiscent of Bogart in anything and William Holden's commentary in the noir-ish 'Sunset Boulevard' ('50) and you have future noir served on a platter existing in a dark futuristic society where Harrison Ford, as a 21st century ex-cop is recruited to find alien androids settling among humans."
Painful stuff. This is a writer in desperate need of an editor and a few lessons on how to use a comma. The book is about noir, but he uses the word so much, that I often wondered if his goal was to stick it in as many times in as many sentences as he possibly could. For instance:
"Although science fiction is not a particularly strong genre for noir analysis, certain key noir elements may still apply it for noir status."
"'City of Angels' is another noir curiosity that only ran from February to August 1976 but deserves inclusion because of its private eye genre, it's noir-ish photography and general 1930-1940s style that lent itself to noir iconography."
It's a shame he couldn't have stuck the word noir in there one or two more times. He also spends way too much time sharing with us his own, internal debates about whether shows deserved to be included in his book or not. For instance, in the midst of discussing "Harry O," he starts rambling...
"Much lighter in tone than the very dark 'The Fugitive', it still did not reach the humorous heights of James Garner's 'Rockford Files' or even Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul's inspired comic renderings of 'Starsky and Hutch'. Two worthy programs I have not included in my analysis because their humor prevented them from noir status. A tough decision, but Garner's often-folksy humor and Glaser and Soul's comedy team antics were just too light for noir justifications."
As if we cared. But more importantly, what the heck does any of that have to do with "Harry O?" Nothing.
I love books about TV, particularly those that focus on cop shows. But this book is a mess. And way, way over-priced at $15.95. Skip it. (less)
Too many of my good friends contributed to In Pursuit of Spenser, a collection of essays about Robert B. Parker and his writing, for me to be unbiased...moreToo many of my good friends contributed to In Pursuit of Spenser, a collection of essays about Robert B. Parker and his writing, for me to be unbiased or, conversely, too critical in my review.
The line-up of authors that editor Otto Penzler assembled for the book includes Loren D. Estleman, Parnell Hall, Brendan DuBois, Gary Phillips, Lawrence Block, Dennis Lehane, Max Allan Collins, SJ Rozan, Jeremiah Healy, Ed Gorman, Reed Farrel Coleman, and Spenser's new author, Ace Atkins.
I'll just say that some of the essays are much stronger than others and don't quite jell as a whole. There's a great, indepth book to be written about Parker and his work and this isn't quite it. For the most part, this book just skims the surface, but I get the sense that's exactly what Penzler was going for. Something as breezy and light as Parker's fiction.
At times, the book reads more like an extended memorial, what friends and admirers might have stood up at the podium to say at Parker's service, had they been given the chance. And it's those essays in particular, the more personal ones from Lehane and Block, that are the most entertaining and revealing. Block obviously admired Parker's craftmanship but also didn't pull any punches.(less)
If you're hoping to learn anything about the history, development, writing, or production of Dr. Kildare in radio and television, or simply want an in...moreIf you're hoping to learn anything about the history, development, writing, or production of Dr. Kildare in radio and television, or simply want an in depth, detailed episode guide, you are going to be sorely disappointed by the DR. KILDARE SCRAPBOOK. This isn't a book. It's barely more than a brochure. At best, it's a lengthy article...and yet it still lacks any substance. This exceedingly thin (100 pages, including the index) paperback is nothing more than a bare bones episode guide...and even on that level, the summaries are so sparse and devoid of details that it's a major failure. It's also very badly written. For example, here's the first line of chapter one:
"As part of its bringing some of its most famous movie series to radio, MGM put the team of Lew Ayres and Lionel Barrymore from the Dr. Kildare movies back together for a radio series called The Story of Dr. Kildare."
It only gets worse, and less informative, from there.
This "book" might have worked as an appendix to an actual book about Dr. Kildare on radio and television, but as a standalone reference work, it's terrible. I am a huge admirer of Bear Manor Media, the company that published this book...so I am not only surprised that that they took this poorly executed, superficial project on, but that they had the chutzpah to charge $14.95 for it in print and $9.99 for the digital edition. Don't waste your money on this one.(less)